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Wishy washy

Simon Thwaites made his point at a 1993 demonstration. Credit: Xtra Files

The federal justice department will have to read between the lines if it wants to figure out EGALE’s position on whether or not to raise the age of consent for sex.



Ottawa asked for public input on whether the general age of consent to sexual activity should be changed, and, if so, to what.



In its submission, Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) chose not to answer either question. Instead, the Ottawa-based group offered seven concerns the government should look at, and urged the politicians to study the issue more before making a decision.



EGALE executive director John Fisher says the government should be able to determine the group’s position by the wording of the brief.



“We’ve not held back in language,” says Fisher. “Our position is implicit in the concerns…. A responsible government can’t respond to the issue without taking into account these concerns.”



Right now, the age of consent is 14 for most sexual activity. Those between 12 and 14 can legally have sex with someone within two years of their own age.



EGALE’s brief states that if the government wanted to raise the age, it would have to ensure a few things, like the equality of enforcement between gay and straight youth. It would also have to avoid driving illegal youth sex underground, which would make the job of youth and AIDS education workers more difficult.



As well, EGALE is concerned that an increase in the age of consent would prevent youth – which it defines as people 14 or 15 years old – from dating their peers. Specifically, if they meet their peers at gay and lesbian youth groups.



“To criminalize the primarily healthy sexual relations that ensue seems perverse, furthering the marginalization of LGBT youth,” reads the submission dated Mar 30.



In preparing the brief, EGALE looked at more than 100 questionnaires sent to it on paper and via its website. It did not submit the responses themselves, nor a summary of the responses to the government. Fisher says the survey was not scientific and can make no claim to speak for the concerns of queer youth.



Fisher says EGALE reserves the right to make further submissions, but wouldn’t say what further measures it would take to strengthen its position. Consulting with queer youth groups is a possibility.



EGALE can be reached at (613) 230-1043 or egale@istar.ca. The deadline for submissions to the Child Victims And The Criminal Justice System paper was Mar 31.